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Plan your trip to the Bahamas with the ESTA Visa

by Pilar Dujan | April 6, 2023
Swimming pig with a bird on top in clear water at Big Major Cay in the Bahamas

What’s not to love about the Bahamas? A paradise on Earth, a place ideal to relax on its pristine beaches with a cold drink and enjoy the time off.

But do you need a visa to Bahamas? Yes, depending where you’re travelling from, you may need a visa to the Bahamas. Since the South of the United States is extremely close to the Bahamas, this is likely the starting point of your trip. Find out if you need the Bahamas visa to travel from the US, or what other documents are required. 

Do I need visa for Bahamas?

If you travel from outside the US, then you might need a visa for Bahamas. However, if you are on holiday in the United States and wish to pay a visit to the Bahamas, then you may need to fill the ESTA application instead of applying for a Bahamas travel visa. This also applies for people visiting the Bahamas from the US via cruise ship.

Keep in mind that the Bahamas count as a contiguous territory and island of the US, which means that your stay there falls into the 90 days you are allowed to stay in the United States with the ESTA.

Reminder: if you were born in one country but now reside in another (except the US or Canada), the documentation you will have to provide is based upon the country of birth.

How to apply for the ESTA Visa

The ESTA Visa is an electronic travel authorisation for those who are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) of the US, available only for certain eligible countries. This visa is valid for two years and allows a maximum stay of 90 days per visit

If you come from one of the eligible countries, you will also need to apply for the ESTA to stay in transit in any US airport, even if it’s not your final destination.

Those who are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must apply in person for a tourist visa at the US Embassy of their country.

The ESTA visa is only issued online, and you can go through the process with the help of Visagov to make sure you don’t make any mistakes in the application. You will have to complete a form, make the payment and then just wait to receive the approval in your email. 

However, even if you come from one of the eligible countries, you might not be able to apply for this visa. If you have traveled to Iran, Irak, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since the 1st of March 2011 you will not be eligible for an ESTA and you will have to go to the U.S. Embassy in person to apply for a tourist visa. These rules apply to all citizens of countries that qualify for the ESTA visa waiver program. 

For more information, read our guide to how to apply for tourist visa to USA.

Vaccines needed for a trip to the Bahamas

You do not need any special vaccines for your visit to the Bahamas, except if you’re arriving from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever transmission. All visitors older than one year old have to provide a vaccination certificate for the disease when travelling from one of these countries: 

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chad, Congo, Congo (Dem, Rep.) Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

This is also valid for any visitors that have been in transit for more than 12 hours in an airport of a country with risk of Yellow Fever transmission

To learn more about this topic, you can go to the CDC website.

wood hut in clear water at the beach in the Bahamas

Visiting the Bahamas: safety and security

As with most countries, the Bahamas are relatively safe for tourists but you should always take certain precautions to ensure your personal security. 

The main tourist areas are always patrolled by the police. However, there have been incidents of robbery and break-ins, especially in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Freeport. 

If you can, avoid walking alone at night away from the hotels and tourist areas. Try to not be alone on the beach or downtown Nassau after dark as it could be dangerous. 

Don’t keep large amounts of cash or jewelry on you and stay alert at all times. 

Another thing to keep in mind when talking about security in the Bahamas is the lack of regulation of water sports and activities. Jet skis and other equipment could be seriously dangerous if the company or individual advertising the service is unregistered. 

If you plan on attending a regatta or festival, you can! Just stay alert, do not show off any expensive jewelry and keep most of your cash in your hotel room. 

Don’t miss out on the best of the Bahamas

So, you know how to get there and how to stay safe. Now, what can you do in the Bahamas? Here is our list of seven activities you should not miss.

Enjoy the beauty of the Pink Sands Beach

This special and stunning beach is located on the east coast of Harbour Island, near Dunmore Town. There are hotels and beach umbrellas available nearby so you can enjoy the area.

But what is so special about this beach? It’s all in the name: it has pink sand! This is because of the corals and sand banks you can find near the shore. All in all, this beach will make for an unforgettable experience. 

Make some new friends on Blue Lagoon Island

This used to be the preferred hiding place of pirate buccaneers, but now is one of the top attractions in the Bahamas, especially for families. 

Actually named Salt Cay, the Blue Lagoon Island is remarkable for its amazing beaches with white sand and the lagoon, a prime spot for wildlife spotting and watersports. 

But the most important thing in the Blue Lagoon Island is the Dolphin Encounters program, which allows tourists to swim with dolphins. A must! 

Visit the Blue Holes National Park

This National Park is located on Andros Island and it covers over 33,000 acres of territory.

There are some amazing trails for hiking, where you will be able to spot many local birds. However, the highlight of the park are the underwater caves. Make sure to pack your snorkeling gear! You can also scuba dive in this area to explore the depths of the caves. 

Near this park you can find the Andros Barrier Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world. To get the best experience possible, you have to scuba dive so you can explore the Tongue of the Ocean, a deep ocean trench. 

Go to the Paradise Island Water Park

The park is located inside the enormous Atlantis Bahamas Resort and is equally great to visit with small children as with adults. 

There are tons of slides, grotto pools, adult-only pools with bars and attractions that you won’t find anywhere else. Perfect for fun and adrenaline lovers!  

Meet the rays on the Stingray Adventure

Pay a visit to these amazing animals in the shallow waters of Half Moon Cay

To ensure the safety of every visitor, each tour starts with instructions about the stingray’s behaviour and how to handle them. When this is done and there are no doubts left, the real adventure begins: you will be able to feed them and pet them in their natural habitat. A unique experience for all animal lovers.

See the swimming pigs 

In the uninhabited Big Major Cay pigs run wild and swim freely in the ocean. Is there anything else to say? Just go and experience this with your own eyes, you will not regret it. 

Feast on the local gastronomy

Have you ever tried conch? It’s a shellfish abundant in the Bahamas, where you can taste many delicious dishes such as grilled conch or conch fritters. If you haven’t tried it, you will love it! 

The Bahamas cuisine is a reflection of its Caribbean culture, there are many amazing things to try and enjoy like fried fish or some delicious rum drinks.